Althoff senior setter Louise Comerford went over the 2,000-assist mark for her career, and the Crusaders led from start to finish Wednesday in a 25-16, 25-18 win over the O’Fallon Panthers.
Playing before a large senior-night crowd, Althoff (34-1) jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the opening game and was never seriously threatened by an O’Fallon team frustrated by the Crusaders’ blocking and overall defense.
“I thought we came out and played very well. We’ve really spent a lot of time working on our defense, and I thought it showed tonight,” Althoff coach Sara Thomas-Dietrich said. “I also thought we blocked very well. ... We never let them get on track.”
With outside hitter Katie Wemhoener and senior Addie Burris helping to frustrate the Panthers on the right side, O’Fallon had just one three-point scoring run all night long.
On the offensive side, Burris led the Althoff attack with seven kills, and sophomore Karinna Gall added six of her own. Burris and Gall were also two of the five Althoff players with four or more kills.
Comerford, a four-year starter and Miami of Ohio recruit, finished her final home match with 28 assists and was once again the Crusaders’ leader on the court.
With the score tied 4-4 in set two, play was stopped and Thomas-Dietirch announced to the crowd that Comerford had just collected her 2,000th career assist. A stunned Comerford was presented with the game ball as the crowd honored her.
“I had no idea how many assists I had. I guess everybody on the team knew though. I’m just stunned,” an emotional Comerford said after the match. “It’s a team game, and tonight it was another strong team effort. We’re played well heading into the postseason, and I just hope we can continue play this way as we go on ...”
O’Fallon also ended a successful regular season Wednesday. The Panthers will take a 27-6 record into Class 4A regional play next week.
But the Panthers offense was held in check by the Crusaders on Wednesday. Senior Elisa Smith, who picked up kill No. 1,000 earlier this week, paced O’Fallon with six kills Wednesday.
Smith, like her teammates, left Althoff frustrated.
“We haven’t seen a defense like that this year,” Smith said. “They (Althoff) played very well, and we didn’t. It was a long and very frustrating match. We couldn’t get anything going.”